Unused switches

In my bathroom there are two switches on the wall. One for the light, one for an old electric wall heater that we don’t use. I disconnected the wires behind the heater and capped them. Can I take out the switch for the heater and cap the wires safely? Then install a cover plate that only exposes the usable switch for the light.

not an electrician, but what you describe is frequently the case.

I bought a house once, where, even after inspection, I found bare-ended switch controlled wires hanging down into the crawl space from an unused switch in the front hall. I used them, eventually, for my outside low voltage light transformer.

The key is, cap and tape the wires, don’t worry about them again.

I don’t see why not. You might have to search online (amazon?) for that particular wall plate, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it at Lowes or Home Depot unless you use one of those Hodge Podge make your own plate kits.

When you open the switch up you may find that it has it’s own hot and neutral coming into the box. Something like a heater may be on it’s own breaker. In that case, you might even go the extra step of not just capping it off there, but disconnecting the wires from the breaker and capping them off there as well. That way no one turns the breaker on by accident. It just takes someone working on that switch, flipping breakers, having everything uncapped and suddenly they get a shock from wires that shouldn’t have had power.
But, at the very least, turn the breaker off.

I’d also label the wires, something like “unused wires in bathroom switch junction box”.

Assuming you can do this without electrocuting yourself, you can just buy a switch and a single switch plate at either Lowe’s or Home Dept for a few dollars. Cap the unused wires carefully and push them to the back of the electrical box and install the single switch in place of the dual switch that you are still using. Screw it down and put the single plate on, and your problem is solved

Since you have the wiring there & it is/was working, I would make use of it. You hardly ever have too many outlets!

Replace the old wall heater with a standard receptacle, and either leave it controlled by the switch, or wire nut the switch wires together (not separately capped) so that the new receptacle is always on. (Do check to make sure it’s 120volts, not 240, first.)

I agree with this. Get another light fixture, fan, heater, or install a GFCI outlet. No use letting the wiring go to waste.

Without knowing how the bathroom is set up, that could mean a giant unpainted spot (or at least scorched) and could turn a 4 dollar project into a small bathroom redo. New paint, new bathmats, new towels etc. OTOH, he could, however, put an outlet next to the switch.

My other suggestion was just to ignore it. It’s caped off at the heater so it’s not going to do anything. Who cares if someone flips it by accident. You can even put a small transparent lock on it so it can’t be turned on by accident and cut the breaker if it’s the only thing on that breaker. That’s probably what I’d do. Future proof it. Right now, it’s capped and someday someone will have an easy time figuring out what the deal is. But the more you abandon the wires, the more confusing it is. Cap the wires in the switch and the continuity tester has to come out to see if they’re the same ones and they’ll have to wonder if they’re split off and go somewhere else. Put an outlet in the switch box and no one is going to have any idea where the heater wires come from*. At that point you might as well strip them out as best you can.

Imagine a thread that starts with: I have a broken heater in my bathroom. The wires are capped, but I want to replace the heater (or install an outlet). How do I figure out where the wires are coming from?

Also, to the people that are saying ‘put in a light fixture’ this is on the wall and as for an outlet, we don’t know where the heater is, an outlet would look silly if the heater is mounted 5 feet off the floor in the middle of a wall.

Any potentially powered cables in the wall have to be terminated in an accessible, properly secured electrical box. Both the wall switch box and the receptacle box qualify as such. You simply need to Marrette cables in the box and put a cover plate on. It is now a ‘junction box’ and must remain accessible by code, you do not cover it with drywall.

If the powered end of the cables are disconnected and removed from panel or box they are powered from you can bury them. I personally do not like this as you cannot be sure someone messing around at a future date might mistakenly re connect them to power. It always makes me a little nervous when finding improperly terminated cables, dead or not, in walls when renovating.

In an episode of This Old House (or maybe one of the Mike Holmes shows) they abandoned some old wires and buried them in the dry wall. It was too much work to rip them out so in the breaker box they disconnected them from the breaker and, I believe, tied the hot and neutral together and possibly made some kind of notation not reuse them. It’s possible that instead or as well as tying them together they also cut them really short to make it hard to reconnect them.

In addition to that, in the soon to be hidden junction box they tied the hot and neutral wires together (and maybe ground as well). This made sure that if someone did reconnect the wires in the breaker box they wouldn’t be able to turn the breaker on, it would just keep shorting and turning off. They’d be forced to either give up on the idea, find the hidden box (and hopefully bring it back up to code) or disconnect that branch of the circuit after they trace the short to somewhere down that way.

According to the electrician, the box could be buried after the wires were connected at both ends so that it couldn’t be powered back up even if someone wanted to.